Seat Belts

Seat belts are designed to keep drivers and passengers secured in their seats in the event of a road traffic collision. By securing the driver and any passengers in position, seat belts can substantially reduce the risk of serious or fatal injuries during a road traffic incident.

Wearing a seat belt significantly reduces your risk of being thrown from a vehicle during a collision. Moreover, by wearing a seat belt, the effectiveness of your vehicle’s other safety mechanisms are heightened. Systems such as airbags and head restraints are more efficient at protecting motorists and passengers if seat belts are worn.

Seat Belt Statistics

  • Since 1983, all drivers and front seat passengers within a vehicle are required to wear a seat belt by law. Rear seat belt use was made compulsory for children in 1989 and adult passengers in 1991. As a result of this legislation, seat belts have been estimated to have save over 50,000 lives in the UK.
  • Passengers travelling in a vehicle account for 64% of all road related casualties. In 2010, 133,205 people were killed or seriously injured whilst travelling in vehicles; out of which 89,787 were the drivers of these vehicles.
  • According to recent 2008/2009 statistics from the Department for Transport, approximately 95% of adult front seat passengers and drivers wear seat belts. In comparison, 88% of adult rear seat passengers wear seat belts. The Department for Transport continues to commission regular surveys of seatbelt wearing in England and has done so since 1988. These surveys are carried out at 32 sites in two areas in Nottingham and Crowthorne. The surveys occur during daylight hours, during which time survey staff are positioned at light controlled junctions in order to observe the seatbelt and child restraint use of vehicle occupants. In 2009, an additional survey was conducted at 21 sites in Scotland, using the same observational practices.
  • The 2009 Department for Transport survey also revealed that young drivers were the least likely to wear seat belts. Out of the drivers surveyed, 94% of young drivers wore a seat belt in comparison to 95% of middle-aged drivers and 96% of older drivers.
  • According to the 2009 survey, male drivers wore seat belts less than women. Only 93% of male drivers were observed to be wearing seat belts in comparison to 98% of female drivers.
  • The 2009 survey showed that the proportion of drivers wearing seat belts was higher on weekends than weekdays; with 97% of weekend drivers wearing seatbelts as opposed to 95% of weekday drivers.
  • The 2009 survey also showed that drivers wore seatbelts more frequently on major roads than on minor roads; with 96% of major road drivers wearing a seatbelt in relation to 94% of minor road drivers.


In order to safeguard yourself and your passengers in the event of a collision, it is advisable that you practice the following seat belt measures:

  • Always wear a seat belt when sitting in the front or rear of a vehicle.
  • If travelling with children, make sure that they are fitted with a sufficient child restraint or seat belt. If you have small children who are under 135cm in height, or who are under 12 years of age, they must be seated in a specified child car seat. This is because adult sized seat belts are ineffective at comprehensively securing small children in the event of a crash.
  • When wearing a seat belt, make sure that the belt is as tight as possible with no slack.
  • Make sure that the belt is fully functional; e.g. check that the strap is not trapped in the car door, or wrapped around any objects.
  • If wearing a lap belt, it should be positioned over your pelvis, instead of your stomach.
  • When wearing a seat belt, the diagonal strap should be positioned over your shoulder, instead of your neck.
  • Check the condition of your seat belts regularly in case they are damaged. Scrutinise all of the seat belts in your vehicle for; fraying around the edges, cut or split fabric, holes in the strap, as well as any damage to the seat belt buckle or seat belt lock. Any of these faults could reduce the effectiveness of your seat belts in the event of a crash and should therefore be fixed by a professional immediately.